Shipbuilder Keith Ford, third from right, met with Vice President of Human Resources and Trades Xavier Beale and other leaders who thanked his crew for taking action when they noticed something didn’t look right. Photo by Lexi Whitehead

Crew Raises a Red Flag

Published November 1, 2022

A group of Virginia-Class Submarine Program shipbuilders at Newport News Shipbuilding spoke up when they noticed something didn’t look right. Their actions led to the discovery of a serious quality issue that could have led to months of rework and serious impacts to both cost and schedule.

Keith Ford (X33), who works on a crew with Eric Cherry (X33), Frances Stewart (X33) and Takesha Tatum (X33), was foam filling voids in a VCS unit when he saw a defect in a grease line. He called a co-worker over to take a look, and then they notified their foreman, David Gaines.

“They could’ve easily overlooked it, but they recognized a problem and spoke on it. And then we carried it right on up the line,” Gaines said. “Since they saw it and brought it up, the rework could be done now instead of further down the road.”

If the issue had not been discovered when it was, it would have required even more extensive rework. Ford said he didn’t realize how serious the problem was at first, but he still thought it was important to bring it to the attention of his foreman.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Ford said. “If you see something, you want to correct it right then. People’s lives could be at stake.”

Gaines said his crew is engaged and enjoys an open environment where shipbuilders feel comfortable speaking up and sharing ideas. “I always instill in them to pay close attention to detail, and that’s what they do,” he said. “My whole crew is right on the same page with that.”

Xavier Beale, vice president of Human Resources and Trades, recently met with Ford and VCS leaders to thank the team for its actions.

“We want to make sure that we are always sending out quality work,” he said. “We have to be on top of our game at all times, and that’s why I’m so proud of this team for recognizing something wasn’t right and speaking up.”